On Monday, the Ontario Human Rights Commission (OHRC) released the findings of what it calls an “unprecedented” inquiry into race and policing in Toronto.
The OHRC examined internal police statistics from 2010 to 2017 for the report, which is said to be the most thorough examination of police profiling and discrimination ever conducted in Ontario.
The report found that black Torontonians were “grossly overrepresented” in cases launched by the Special Investigations Unit, the province’s police watchdog and are also much more likely to be killed or injured at the hands of police.
Between 2013 and 2017, the OHRC determined that black people were nearly 20 times more likely to be fatally shot by police. Black civilians were also disproportionately overrepresented in police use-of-force cases and other fatal police interactions.
“We have already seen generation after generation of black Canadians have their lives irreparably damaged by racial profiling,” said OHRC chief commissioner Renu Mandhane in 2017, when the inquiry was launched. “We owe a different future to our children.”
The report includes details about the use of stop-and-question practices, use of force, and arrests in various offence categories such as simple drug possession and failure to comply with bail conditions.
Those statistics were combined with stories from people with lived experience being profiled or discriminated against. The approach is designed to “pinpoint where racial disparities exist,” Mandhane said.
The OHRC has also examined Toronto police culture, training, policies, procedures and accountability mechanisms.
Earlier Monday, Toronto police said they would accept the recommendations laid out by the OHRC, which included a call for police to begin collecting and publicly sharing race-based policing data.
Asked if police would begin to do so, Toronto Police Chief Mark Saunders said, “I have no problems with that.” However, he added that certain legal aspects of that process have to be explored first.
“For many years, racialized and Indigenous communities have spoken out about their deep mistrust of public institutions – such as police, corrections, child welfare agencies and others. These are the very institutions we have entrusted to protect us and help us with highly sensitive issues, and which often respond to the needs of the most vulnerable people in our society. Yet, for racialized and Indigenous peoples, too often the trust they should feel is overridden by the lived experience of racial profiling, such as being unfairly singled out for surveillance, scrutiny, investigation and disproportionately harsh treatment.” OHRC